People are living longer into their golden years and the average life expectancy is continuing to rise. While this is a blessing to many as they are now able to have more time to spend with their family, it can pose substantial challenges as well. These challenges come most significantly in the financial and emotional sense for the aging parent. But, for those families that do not have the financial means to pay for a long-term care facility or homecare, this means that they must now take on the role of caregivers themselves. This new role that can sometimes be thrust upon the adult children suddenly, not only poses financial and emotional challenges, but also can also affect their personal relationships, careers and health.
Financial and Career Challenges
The costs associated with caregiving add up over time and often put adult children in a difficult position when it comes to their jobs and their own finances. If the caregiver must outlay their own money to help support the elderly parent, this means that they are not able to contribute as much to their own savings or retirement funds. This can also hamper their careers as well due to having to take time off to accompany their parent to doctor appointments or otherwise miss work in order to provide the level of care that’s required. Although caring for an ailing family member is protected under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, many employers can still terminate employment. Even if employment is able to be maintained during this time, it can significantly affect the caregiver’s career path and the speed at which they can advance in their field or company.
Time & Relationship Challenges
When a loved one begins to experience a health setback or starts needing more assistance, the caregiver will shift into “crisis mode” and shuffle their priorities around to ensure their loved one’s needs are met. Most family caregivers take on these responsibilities thinking they will be short-term commitments and that life will soon return to “normal”, but this if often not the case. Without proper planning, things that used to take priority like career, friends and relationships with significant others, can be overshadowed. Some caregivers are also part of what is coined the “sandwich generation” which means they must not only provide care to their parents but also to their own children. With both aspects in play, there is always someone who is needing the caregiver’s time and attention which leaves little to no time for them to spend on themselves. If the caregiver begins to lose themselves in their new role, the tension within the rest of the family can mount and begin to breed feelings of resentment toward the aging family member.
Caregiver Self-care Challenges
Providing care to an elderly or disabled parent can be a psychologically strenuous activity with potential negative consequences for the caregiver’s mental and physical health. The combination of prolonged stress and the physical demands of caregiving can place the caregiver at risk for significant health problems, such as those related to poor diet, sleep deprivation and failure to exercise. They are also at an increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
Caregivers must come to the realization that they cannot do everything themselves and must look to outside resources for assistance and respite. They must learn to set priorities that allow them to provide quality care for their elders, yet ensure they still have time, patience and energy for their own children, their significant others and themselves. If this isn’t done early on, then breaking the pattern will become harder and harder as time passes. Planning in advance before the adult child finds themselves in the caregiver role is the best course of action and can provide the best outcomes for not only themselves but their aging family members as well.
Care Right offers an Aging Plan, which is the best solution to avoiding caregiver burnout, strained family relationships, financial strain, and creating the path to success for all family members. Since each situation is unique, Care Right will strive to understand not only the wants, needs, and desires of the aging family member, but those of the entire family as well in order to create a customized set of recommendations.